business news in context, analysis with attitude

We spend a lot of time here on MNB chatting about the different priorities, habits, and cultural values of new generations, and why businesses - especially traditional retailers seeking or clinging desperately to the idea of being relevant - need to pay attention. Well, there is an excellent piece reading in this week's The New Yorker that uses "an art-and-tech collective called the Sub" there to illustrate how young people think and act differently, suggesting how traditional businesses need to think about them differently both as customers and employees.

"San Francisco has traditionally been a Dungeness crab of a city, shedding its carapace from time to time and burrowing down until a new shell sets," the story, by Nathan Heller, says. "It has not been an industry town in the sense of New York, which media and finance have shaped for well over a century. It is not like Washington, D.C., or Los Angeles, whose dreams are dominated by one Hydra-headed business. San Francisco has never been dominated by anything, but it’s always ended up preëminent in something. Gold, for instance. Free love. Microchips. People do not move to San Francisco as much as swarm to it. Those irked by change rarely stay long."

But lately, that "pattern has begun to break. San Francisco is an industry town. This industry is usually called 'tech,' but the term no longer signifies what it used to. Tech today means anything about computers, the Internet, digital media, social media, smartphones, electronic data, crowd-funding, or new business design. At some point, in other words, tech stopped being an industry and turned into the substrate of most things changing in urban culture. That broadening has had other effects. Like many observers, I’ve been dimly aware of a shift in the country’s aspirational character over the past few years. It showed up in what people—mostly ambitious middle-class city people—wanted from life, and how they reached for it. Many did good works or started companies that did them. Many who’d been racing up ladders in New York or Los Angeles or Washington dropped everything and moved out to the Bay Area to work. You could enter any coffeehouse in certain neighborhoods there and hear kids talking eagerly about creative plans, a rarity in most cities thought to have inventive youth cultures ... "

I think this is a fascinating piece, and you can read it here.
KC's View: